By Richie Murray
Brownsburg, Indiana (August 13, 2021)………Midget racing has long had a home at Brownsburg, Indiana’s Lucas Oil Raceway over the past six decades. After an absence of several years in the middle part of the past decade, midget racing has become a monthly can’t-miss experience at the .686-mile paved oval.
In fact, this Saturday night’s 50-lap $10,000-to-win Browns Oil Service Champion Midget event will be the 142nd Midget event held at the track under the USAC banner since the venue’s opening in 1961, and the fourth alone this year, the most Midget races held at LOR since the 1997 season.
Saturday’s midget event is a non-points, special event for the series, instead, paying plenty in terms of money and pride.
The unequivocal pavement open wheel dominators of this generation – Bobby Santos, Kody Swanson and Tanner Swanson – have, unsurprisingly, been victorious in a midget at LOR in their careers.
In the last four rounds of midget competition at LOR over the past two seasons, both Santos and Kody Swanson have won two features each. Santos (Franklin, Mass.) has won three times overall dating back to 2006 and won at LOR in June of this year as well, one of his 11 total LOR USAC victories at the track. The 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion was 3rd with the midgets at LOR in May of this year and 4th in July.
Kody (Kingsburg, Calif.) possesses similar stats as Santos in their tug-of-war of supremacy at LOR with 11 overall USAC wins and three in the midget. He won his first in 2010 and has added to his total with two more this year in May and July. Kody has also been the fastest qualifier in each of his last four Midget appearances at LOR in 2020-21 and finished as the runner-up to Santos in June.
Younger brother Tanner Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) has won his fair share of USAC races at LOR with seven in his career, with his first coming back in the 2010 Night Before the 500 Midget and has added six more in the Silver Crown cars in the decade since. Tanner’s finished consistently within the top-five this year in LOR midget features with at 4th in May, a 3rd in June and a 5th in July.
Chuck Gurney Jr. (Livermore, Calif.) hasn’t been behind the wheel of a racecar in USAC competition since 2011. The current Assistant Crew Chief for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports’ USAC National Midget team knows his way to the front at Lucas Oil Raceway in a midget. The son of 1989 USAC Silver Crown champ Chuck Gurney won both of his races with the USAC National Midgets at LOR, bagging back-to-back scores in both 2008 and 2009.
Similarly away from the cockpit of a midget for a lengthy period of time, Josh Wise (Riverside, Calif.) has become a force this season at LOR, performing and finishing progressively better in each of his three starts. The 2005 USAC National Midget and 2006 USAC National Sprint Car champion was 7th at LOR in May, then followed it up by leading two laps and finishing 4th in June. In July, he turned in his best performance yet this year, finishing 2nd after leading the first 18 laps of the 30-lap feature.
Top-five midget finishers Thomas Meseraull, Justin Grant and Nick Hamilton return to action Saturday night at LOR. Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) was the runner-up in May and also finished 5th in June. Reigning USAC Silver Crown champ Grant (Ione, Calif.) was 5th in May. Hamilton (Danville, Ind.) garnered a 3rd in July and a 7th in June.
Returnees from the top-10 set of LOR Midget feature finishers this year include the likes of Cole Carter, Jake Trainor, Kyle O’Gara, Dalton Armstrong, Cody Gerhardt and Tyler Roahrig. Carter (Brownsburg, Ind.), son of the first career USAC Triple Crown champion, Pancho Carter, finished a best of 6th in both June and July. Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) standout Trainor (Medway, Mass.) has finished in the top-10 on all three occasions this season at LOR, topped by a 6th in May.
O’Gara (Beech Grove, Ind.), the 2014 USAC Pavement Midget champion, took 8th in May. Dalton Armstrong (New Castle, Ind.), the 2010 USAC Regional Midget and USAC Wolverine Midget titlist, was 8th this past July. Cody Gerhardt (Fresno, Calif.) is a three-time USAC national champ, in the Western Ford Focus Pavement Midget, California North Ford Focus Midget and California South Ford Focus Midget divisions in 2010 and was 9th at LOR in June and 10th in July. The 2021 Little 500 Sprint Car winner, Tyler Roahrig (Plymouth, Ind.), finished 10th in his LOR Midget debut this past June.
Mario Clouser and Bret Sanderson have each finished within the top-10 in their careers with the USAC Midgets at LOR in year’s past. Clouser (Auburn, Ill.) was 5th in 2012 while Sanderson (Gary, Ind.) collected a 6th in 2014.
They’ll be joined a whole host of returnees to the driver lineup for Saturday’s race who’ve competed at LOR this season, including Goodyear, Arizona’s Nathan Byrd (11th in June). Morgan Hill, California’s Blake Brannon (12th in May) was the 2016 USAC Western Restricted HPD Midget champion. Shelby Township, Michigan’s Taylor Ferns (12th in July) scored the 2011 USAC D1 Midget title.
Mendon, Massachusetts’ Johnny Zych (13th in May) captured NEMA titles in 2013-15-16. Fellow NEMA standout, Suffield, Connecticut’s Todd Bertrand (18th in May) was the NEMA champion in 2020. Indianapolis, Indiana’s John Sluss (14th in June) earned the 1998 USAC Regional Midget championship at the Indianapolis Speedrome.
Hillsborough, California’s Annie Breidinger was 19th in May; Spring Valley, Illinois’ Ryan Shilkuski was 22nd in May; Sherman, Illinois’ Brandon Maurer has turned laps at LOR in practice, but has yet to start a feature event at the track entering Saturday.
The inaugural Hoosier Classic will feature all three open wheel divisions back-to-back-to-back under the Saturday night lights, concluding with a $10,000-to-win 50-lap Championship Sprint Car feature, followed by a $10,000-to-win 50-lap Browns Oil Champion Midget feature and the grand finale, a 100-lap USAC Silver Crown race paying $12,000-to-win.
Saturday’s schedule will have the gates opening at 11am Eastern, followed by the drivers meeting at 2:50pm; stands opening at 3pm; sprint car practice at 3:30pm; midget practice at 4:20pm; USAC Silver Crown practice at 5:10pm; sprint car qualifying at 6pm; midget qualifying at 6:45pm; Silver Crown qualifying at 7:30pm; and opening ceremonies at 8:05pm.
Main events get underway at 8:30pm Eastern, leading off with the sprint car feature followed by the midget feature at 9:15pm and the USAC Silver Crown feature at 10pm.
The 2021 Hoosier Classic trifecta will also feature drivers competing on The Oval at Lucas Oil Raceway for their shot at taking home a staggering $100,000.
The Fatheadz $100K Challenge is up for grabs to anyone that can win all three of the Hoosier Classic races (Sprint, Midget and USAC Silver Crown). If a driver and team can win two of those three events, they will collect $50,000.
The addition of these prizes instantly elevates what was going to be the biggest payday in grassroots pavement open-wheel racing to now another stratosphere with a potential winner taking home a total of $132,000 for winning three big races over the course of one night.
Hoosier Classic tickets are now on sale at www.bit.ly/HoosierClassic. General admission tickets are $25, with children age 12 and under free. Pit passes are $35.
Friday’s Hoosier Classic tickets will be honored for Saturday admission, and original ticketholders will be contacted by the Lucas Oil Raceway ticketing team. Camping will still open on Thursday, August 12.
The Hoosier Classic will be aired live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2ZpafUr.